Monday, December 31, 2012

Mexico Christmas Project Update

God Always Has a Plan

Praise God!  We have all the money needed to help this family in Mexico. (Read about them here.)  And once again my plan was NOT what God had planned for this special project.  His is always so much greater!

When we first talked about helping this family when we were in Mexico, we had planned on coming home and using Travis's Christmas bonus to pay for the majority of the work ourselves.  We planned on asking friends and family to help out with the difference.  When we returned home, we talked with the kids and they were all on board with giving up almost all of their presents to help fix this family's home. 

I waited to write the first blog about our project, because we were waiting to see how much more we'd need after the bonus came in.  In the meantime, we mentioned our idea to a few family members and some close friends and were overwhelmed by their support.  One family offered to help pay the difference right off the top.  The bonus hadn't come in yet, so we weren't sure how much that would be.  But we were anxious to start collecting the rest of the money so that the carpenter could start on the project as soon as possible, so I wrote my blog knowing that God knew how much "extra" would be needed.  I knew He would take care of it.

Within a few days, we had several hundred dollars.  I was amazed at how generous our friends and family had been.  We kept waiting for the bonus to come in, so that we could tell the other family how much the difference would be.  I sent them an update one day and to my surprise they decided to go ahead and donate a very large amount which would cover almost the entire project!  I was so overwhelmed with joy at their generosity. We knew that with the Christmas bonus we'd definitely be able to cover the few hundred dollars left and have enough to help some of the other projects Family Missions Company had going on.  God was awesome!

We continued to wait, and wait, and wait for the Christmas bonus to come in.  It never did.  Finally, we got word that there would be no bonus this year.  Wow!  That was a blow to our plans, but I knew God had a plan.  I could now see what had been unfolding right before us.  The family mentioned above had given the exact amount that we had figured we'd be able to give out of the bonus.  Emily had raised more with her baking in one week than I thought she would.  Friends and family donated larger amounts than I expected them to give.  One of our local church parishes even donated to our project.  A blog reader had also given a substantial amount online for our project.  I knew that God had been working, we'd have that last $500 bonus or no bonus.

Sure enough within a few days of finding out that there would be no extra bonus coming in, I received a $300 check and a $200 pledge from two wonderful friends who both said, "I wish we could do more."  They had no idea when they wrote their checks that that was the exact amount that God intended them to each give.  That was the exact amount needed to finish the project.  I was speechless even though I had known that that last bit would come in. 

Once again, God humbled our family (mostly me) and showed us that we are not to try to do things on our own.  So many times lately we have tried to figure out how we could sell everything and stock pile at least a little for our future full time mission ministry.  We don't want to have to depend on others for financial support.  That is one of our biggest anxieties about our call to full time missions---having to ask others to financially support our family and our mission work.  It makes us both ill to think about not being able to provide for our own family's needs.  

God continuously tries to prove to us that He will take care of us and our mission.  If you read our blog, you already know how hard he's trying to convince us and that's only half the story!  You'd think by now we'd have learned!  I sometimes imagine Him taking that deep breath that we parents take when we've been saying the same thing over and over to our kids, and they still do not listen to our instructions.  I'm so grateful that our God is patient!  I think I'd have given up on us a long time ago!

A HUGE and heartfelt thank you to all of you that donated to this project, to all of you that prayed for it, and to all of you who continue to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and support us in this crazy journey we are on!

Merry Christmas to you all!  
May many blessings shower your family in 2013!
The Seilhan Family

PS  I will post another update and hopefully some pictures as soon as the project gets underway in General Cepeda.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 6

Listening to the Prompting of the Holy Spirit

Remember how I said I keep feeling like we had to bring glasses in my first post?  Well, on the first day this lady showed up needing glasses. 

She tried on every pair in the box we had brought.  It was as if none of them would work for her.  I said a quick prayer asking Jesus to let there be a pair for her.  Finally, the last pair in the box was perfect.   She was so overwhelmed with joy when the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church became clear enough to read!

There are no words in any human language to describe the look on her face.

I am so grateful that God allowed me to be at the Mission House when this lady came knocking.  Not only did he once again humble me by showing me true joy in a pair of $2.00 "cheaters", but He also confirmed that He will be with us to guide us every step of the way on our new journey.  All we need to do is "Be Still and Listen" to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

I am so grateful to the "garage sale" man who was also listening to the urging of the Spirit to bring us the extra money that was used to purchase all the eyeglasses.  There were several others that came during the week for glasses, and thankfully they were all able to find a pair to work for them including a girl about the age of our girls. 

Are you listening? What has the Holy Spirit been prompting you to do? 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 5

The Ultimate Christmas Gift

On Thanksgiving Day, the girls and I met this family and once again God moved in our hearts.

When we arrived, there were literally kids everywhere.  They had one older boy sitting on a crate with a very old bicycle turned upside down in front him trying to fix it.  There were a few little ones playing with some old toy cars and trucks on a dirt mound on the side of the house.  Soon other kids and several ladies came filing out of the house to greet us.  They quickly began pulling out crates for us to sit on and even covered them with some of their clean clothes so that we would be more comfortable and wouldn't get dirty.  They didn't stop until we all had a place to sit under their makeshift porch (a torn tarp extending out from the doorway).

After we sat down and began to chat, another lady came to the doorway with a newborn baby.  The baby was a month old.  The same age as my newest niece whom the girls and I were missing so much!  As I tried to count up all the people that seemed to live here, more arrived.  Some were curious neighbors, some were more family members that lived up the hill.  The missionary explained that although not all lived here with the mother-in-law that they pretty much all "stayed" here during the day which meant that they probably had their meals here which is why we had brought two dispensa (food) bags to this home.

The mother-in-law peeled onions for a local grocery store and one of her sons that lived there was a butcher in town.  Neither job was full time.  Both were "as needed."  The two jobs together was not near enough to support these families.  Jobs in General Cepeda are very hard to come by.  I later learned that some of the sons had gone to live in Saltillo (closest big city) for awhile in order to find work, leaving the women and children here because it's more expensive to live in the city.  On top of barely having enough to feed their children, these women also did not have their husbands here with them.

I remembered back to when Travis had to work away from home for only a week at a time.  I remember how difficult it was for me and for the kids.  I remember how lonesome we were for each other's company even though we spoke on the phone every night.  I remember how tough it was to be a "single" mom every other week.  I remember packing up our three babies and going to my mom's or grandma's house daily, not only for a little help, but for a little bit of adult conversation. 

As we sat visiting outside under the torn tarp, I began to notice that there was clothing hanging out of the exterior walls.  I got up, pretending to go see the goats with the girls, to get a better look around.  This is what I saw on the side of the house.

I went back around to the front to inquire some more about this family.  I found out that in the last couple of years, they have had a kitchen fire and a flood.  Yes, a flood in the desert.  A few summers ago, there was a lot of rain and this house, at the bottom of the hill, had flooded and had suffered a lot of exterior damage.  Houses in Mexico are built from adobe (mud) bricks.  "Wealthier" families have an outer layer of cement covering the adobe to protect the mud from washing away when the rain does come.  This house did not have that outer layer of cement protection on the exterior walls and the walls were crumbling.

The family had used scraps of tin they found to patch up this side wall.  The clothing that I originally saw hanging out of the house had been stuffed in the cracks to keep the cold out.  My heart ached even more for these women and children.   The mother-in-law allowed me to go inside and take a look around.  The ceiling had a large black tarp on it to keep the rain out because the roof leaked.  General Cepeda is in a desert area, so they don't get much rain which is good thing in this case.  But when it does rain, the water drips off the edges of the tarp down the adobe walls.  The inside walls were damaged also.

Back outside, I felt God tugging on my heart.  I knew that I was being called to do something.  I knew that He had sent me here for a purpose.  But what?  What could I do?  I felt like I needed to take pictures to show Travis.  Would I offend them if I started taking pictures of their poor living conditions?  So, I sat and just prayed.  We were about to leave when I just blurted out to the missionary translator, "I want to help these people.  Ask them if I can take pictures of their home?"

I'm not sure what all was said back and forth between the missionary and the mother-in-law, but eventually I was told that I could take pictures.  We walked around the house and found yet another crumbling adobe wall and an unfinished addition.

We returned to the mission house for our Thanksgiving Feast, but I could not get this family off my mind.  Travis and I talked about it and were in agreement that we must do something, but what?  We talked to our missionary friend that had been the translator that day.  We asked if she could bring us back to the house, so that Travis could look at it.  She decided that we should also take one of Family Missions Company's Mexican missionaries (and local "carpenter") back with us the next day to see what exactly could be done.  He knew this family well and was happy to help us figure out where to begin. 
When we returned to the house, Travis was able to explain to me what he had learned from his two roofing projects and pointed out the inadequacies of the current roof.   He also noticed that this house didn't have a floor either.  I was too busy looking at the "tarped" ceiling and the crumbling walls that I hadn't noticed the bare dirt floors.

As we walked back to our car, he also noticed that there were a large number of extension cords strung together coming from the house, crossing the rocky, dirt "road," and heading up the hill into a neighboring house.  The electricity that they did have came from a neighbor---a neighbor who probably could barely afford to take care of their own needs.  Yes, the poor are the most generous of all.

We left there knowing exactly why God had called us back to Mexico, why Travis & the boys had been on roofing projects during both trips, why the girls and I had been on this home visit team.  He was calling us to greater humility.  Over the past two years, we had changed our life dramatically. We had simplified our life to the point of being ridiculed by friends and family.  We had curbed our spending on luxuries drastically.  We had begun to support more "causes" out of our need and not our excess.  We had grown in our faith so much with each "sacrifice."  And were happy to be where we were and not where we used to be.  Yet, He wanted to show us that we still had a long way to go!

We found that total cost of repairs (replacing the existing roof, repairing the crumbling walls, adding cement to the exterior walls, and giving them a cement floor) would be around $1500-1800.  Not as doable as the doors and windows, but still very doable.  We just had to figure out how raise the money and how to get it back to this family.  Since being home, we have prayed about it and have discussed it with FMC, and have figure out both.

We decided to make this "The Ultimate Christmas Gift" named after one of our favorite movies The Ultimate Gift.  Instead of wasting so much money, which we all do no matter how hard we try not to, this Christmas we are not giving our kids or our extended families (& friends) gifts that they don't need, want, like, or will be tossed out at the next garage sale.

Instead, we are going to give this family something needed, something that will last, something that will be whole-heartedly appreciated, something that will change their lives---a roof, solid walls, and a floor because we found that the ULTIMATE GIFT IS GIVING to those who truly need the gift.
If you'd like to help us in giving the Ultimate Christmas Gift, there are several ways:
  1. Contact me or Travis privately.
  2. Buy baked goods from "Emily's Bakery."
  3. Send a check directly to:
               Family Missions Company
               12624 Everglade Rd
               Abbeville, LA 70510
    Please put "Seilhan Project" in the memo.
  4. Go to Family Mission Company's website and donate online using your debit or credit card.  Please put "Seilhan Project" in the comment field at the bottom.
Want to "gift" this to someone?  We will send you a picture of the family and a "gift certificate" telling them that you donated to this wonderful cause in their name!  I'm sure they will be more than happy not to have to pretend they needed another picture frame or pair of fuzzy socks! :)

If you don't feel called to help with our project, we challenge you to find another "Christmas Project." There are thousands of great causes that you can get involved in and millions of other families that are truly in need.  But most importantly involve your kids!  Have them "give up" a gift in order to help someone in need.

Mexico Christmas Project Update

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 6

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 4

Pre-term Labor and Bed Rest

On another one of our home visits, the girls and I met a lady that was on bed rest.  She was 8 months pregnant and had been to the hospital the day before with pre-term labor.  They gave her an IV and some medicine to stop the contractions and put her on bed rest.  She was in great spirits when we arrived and was joking about being so bored just sitting there doing nothing.  Flashbacks!  If any of you knew me during my pregnancies, you'd remember that "bed rest" was my life for about three years straight!  I knew that "bored" feeling all too well.

But I also knew how much time your mind has to come up with all the worst scenarios for your unborn child.  She later asked for us to pray for the baby to be strong and healthy.  You could see the worry in her eyes.  I remembered all the fears I had with each one of my pregnancies.  I also knew that our youngest was born a few weeks early and here she was 9 years later---perfect as can be.  I asked our missionary translator to share a little of my story with the lady and to tell her that God listens to a mother's prayer.  Pointing to Olivia, I showed her proof of answered prayers.

We left there and I continued to think of this women throughout the day.  I prayed for her all day as I thought about how blessed I truly was during those three difficult years.  I was surrounded by family.  My grandma or my mom delivered food to me in bed while Travis was at work.  I had a TV, AC/Heat, books, movies---more comforts than I can remember.  I also had awesome team of doctors and a state of the art children's hospital that was taking excellent care of me and my babies.  I had a car ready and available to rush me to that hospital at any moment.  She did not have that.  She did not have any of the luxuries that I had and yet she had a much better attitude than I can remember having.

I remember being miserable.  I remember feeling sorry for myself.  I remember crying and asking, "Why me?  Why again?"  I was probably not a very nice patient for my relatives tending to me and my needs.  I was probably not a good friend to those who visited me and tried to cheer me up.  I didn't know it at the time, but I was so blessed during those difficult pregnancies.  As I had testified  the earlier in that week, I was transformed into the woman I am today because of those difficult times.  Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes once again to Your plan.

Yes, I had been placed on this home visit team personally by God, and He still had more in store for me.....

***Please pray for this mother and all those expecting mothers who do not have the comforts most of us have during our 9 months of waiting.

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 5

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 3

Home Visits and Work Projects

After breakfast our group, broke into smaller groups for our morning ministries.  Some groups visited more ranchos to evangelize.  Father John and a team went out to offer Confession and Mass at a rancho or two.  Some groups worked on building projects.  Some groups visited the elderly, the poor, and the home-bound around the town.

Travis and the two boys were put on a team that worked all week on re-roofing a nearby chapel.  They had to tear the old one off and clear out all the rubble before putting the new one on.  I don't think I've ever seen them as dirty as I did that week.  Each day they came back to the mission house covered in dust, mud, oil, etc.  And not once did I hear them complain about anything.

Father John celebrated Mass there on the last morning with the crew and some of the people from the village.  One of the most fruitful things to come out of this work project was when one of the Mexican workers, who had been using "not-so-nice" language earlier in the week while working, repented, went to Confession, and received the Eucharist. 

Here's a picture of their roofing crew with some of the ladies from the rancho where the chapel was located. 

The two girls and I were put on one of the home visit teams.  Throughout the week we visited different families.  We brought them food, visited with them, read from the Bible and discussed the passage, and then prayed with them before we left.  We were very blessed on the first morning to be able to visit one of the same ladies that we had visited last time.  The girls and I recognized her home right away.  She had touched our hearts so much last visit when she shared her life stories with us.  She had never had children, but had taken care of her nieces and nephews.

 Again, this time she told us how lonely she was since her husband had died many years ago and also told us about her only living  sister that was very sick.  This time we had the Family Missions Company's directors' little boy with us.  Boy, did he and his balloon cheer her up!  Look at that beautiful smile!

On our previous trip, our morning teams rotated, and we got do a little bit of everything.  I was a little bummed that the we'd be on home visits all week.  I had been blessed last time by the people we met during our home visits, but I found it very difficult to join in the "visiting" because I didn't know Spanish at all.  I felt very uncomfortable just sitting there smiling unable to join in.  The missionary translators would tell us what was being said, but by the time it was translated to us, a new conversation had already been started amongst the Spanish speakers.  I felt that I could do more on a work project or with one of the evangelization teams.  But God knew what He had planned for me!

On our last trip, the girls and I had only visited a few elderly ladies in the town.  They all seemed to have nice, clean, sturdy, well-kept homes.  Simple without a lot of material possessions, but "nice" for the most part.  Most homes all looked the same from the outside, and I assumed that they all looked fairly similar on the inside.  My first impression of the "poor" was not at all accurate, and God was going to use this week to humble me even more than the last.

On the second day of home visits, we visited a home with a husband, wife, and three little girls.  Before we got there, one of the missionaries warned us that this family was extremely poor and that their house may smell.  "Ok," I thought, "We can handle it."  As we climbed the hill to this house, we were told that a group of Life Teen Missionaries had built this family a new, larger home last January.  I was so overjoyed and excited by this that I didn't even notice that we had just walked thorough a doorway without a door. 

The sight inside nearly broke my heart.  It was a very tiny one room home with their belongings piled to the ceiling on one wall and a bed and a few chairs along the other wall. It didn't seem to have a kitchen area or bathroom or running water or even electricity.  It seemed to just be four walls and a roof.  I couldn't imagine what they had lived in before if this was the bigger, better house.  My heart ached.

On the floor was a very small and filthy toddler sitting on an old foam egg crate mattress pad playing with a huge mound of broken toys.  These weren't the old, broken toys that you send to Good Will.  These were pieces of toys that you would find in a landfill.  It broke my heart to see.  There were two other little girls just as dirty sitting on a bed playing with very old and dirty baby dolls.  My girls didn't think twice as they sat down on the dirty floor to play with the baby.  My heart wanted to burst with sorrow and joy at the same time.

One of the missionaries chatted back and forth with the mom.  I couldn't help but notice the smile on the mom and dad's face while they chatted.  The missionary explained to me that they were happy to have the bigger place, but even more happy that God had been so good to them.  She explained that the father had to have a large tumor-like growth removed from his mouth this past year, and he was healing very well and was able to speak more than he had in the past.

At the end of our visit we asked if there was anything specific that she would like to pray for; she didn't ask for anything.  She only wanted to pray in "thanksgiving" for for husband's continued healing.  I couldn't imagine anyone back home living like this and being so grateful.  I couldn't imagine myself being so grateful for anything while in such poor conditions.  I knew God had hand picked my ungrateful self for this visit.  He would use this family and this experience to change my heart. (And He still is.)

I later learned that this new house had no windows or doors.  It was now starting to get very cold at night.  They had only a thin sheet hanging in the two windows and the doorway.  Not only did the sheets not keep out the cold, but they didn't keep out anything else.  As we walked back down the hill, I realized that their was nothing to keep all these roaming animals out of the house either.   I went back to the mission house and could not stop thinking of this family. 

The next morning it was announced at morning prayer that FMC would be collecting alms for this particular family's windows and door.  The total cost for two windows and a door was 1300 pesos.  I quickly did a rough calculation in my head---about $100. 

How many times do we blow $100 in a month?  In a week?  In a day?  Ten here, twenty there, etc.  It all adds up.  I was sick thinking about our wasteful spending back home, but overjoyed at the same time by the fact that it was an attainable amount.  By the end of the day, the money had been collected and the doors and windows had been ordered.  By the end of the week, they had been installed. 

This was only the beginning of what God had planned for me this week on home the home visit team...

***Please pray for this family especially for the father to find work.

Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 4